Helhorse

support n/a
author AP date 23/08/19 venue Hotel Cecil, Copenhagen, DEN

Tonight’s festivities at Hotel Cecil are not only to celebrate the release of Helhorse’s fourth studio album “Hydra”, but also to mark a new beginning for the Copenhagen-based band, whose line-up underwent major changes after their self-titled album in 2016 failed to produce the commercial breakthrough they had hoped for. Since then the quintet has been rebuilding and refocusing their efforts, the results of which they are now ready to share with their local fans before taking another stab at the international market. Unfortunately, I manage to confuse myself about when the support act Nyt Liv is supposed to start, and so I arrive too late to catch more than the last couple of songs of their set. But I am told the concert has been pretty much identical to the one they delivered at Pumpehuset in support of Turnstile two weeks earlier, my review of which can be found right here in lieu of my thoughts on how they may have fared tonight. Read on, however, to find out what my impression of the headliner’s much anticipated show was…

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest


Helhorse

A mix of spoken word samples and whining feedback announces the arrival of the instrumentalists of Helhorse on stage, building up tension until vocalist Mikkel Wad Larsen storms in and leads his compatriots into an imposing rendition of “Overboard” — the first single from “Hydra”. From the outset, it is obvious the five musicians feel like they have something to prove; they are bristling with energy, hellbent on reminding us why many fans and critics alike consider Helhorse to be one of the absolute best live acts in Denmark. As Larsen makes insistent strides from side to side and assumes commanding stances on a pedestal centre stage, bassist Theis Roed Thogersen and the current session guitarist Christian Hammer Mattesen never stop jumping, spinning and brandishing their instruments like weapons of war. The crowd remains somewhat apprehensive at first, but when Larsen switches his soulful clean vocals for rapid-fire growling in the second song “Avalanche”, the horns do eventually rise — and when the rowdy biker metal piece “Hell Hath No Fury” (taken from 2013’s “Oh Death”) follows in its wake, people finally seem ready to get off their feet and show Helhorse just how much they have been missed. My moshing days may be behind me, but that does not mean I don’t get reeled in by the dense groove and the air guitar-provoking wah-wah soloing by lead guitarist Jakob Møgelvang as much as everyone else.

Once we have been rattled awake by the opening trident, Larsen takes a few seconds to exclaim: “Ladies and gentlemen, Helhorse is BACK!”, which is met with a crowd response that can only be described as enraptured. Someone has brought a large Danish flag with the band’s logo on it with him, and Larsen triumphantly accepts this offering and lays it down in front of him in a way that feels a bit… solemn. But then the set takes a turn for the darker with the stoning “Outcome: Ruin” and the epic doom and gloom of “Death Comes to the Sleeping”, the latter of which became one of my personal favourites from the band when it was released on the aforementioned 2013 LP. Helhorse has always resonated most with me when they’ve been channeling the likes of Crowbar and Kingdom of Sorrow, and it is a pleasant surprise to find that these sources of inspiration seem to have played a role again during the creation of “Hydra”. This was the main thing I was missing in 2016’s “Helhorse”, but still, as the bluesy “Fortune Favours the Bold” off that record is aired as the next song, it is hard to deny it is the perfect middle-of-the-set piece — powerful as far as Larsen’s vocal performance goes, but subdued enough instrumentally to give the audience some minutes to breathe before the next onslaught begins with another song from the 2016 album: “Carry Your Own”.

One must commend Larsen & co. for the sequencing and variety of tonight’s setlist, which ebbs and flows perfectly for its entire 80-minute duration. The transitions from slow and moody tracks into bursts of energy never feel sudden; rather, things are wound down and then gradually escalated into the likes “Hell of a Ride”, which inspires Thogersen to bust out an impromptu bass solo in the middle of the song. The audience is bouncing up and down and abiding Larsen’s every command, starting a circlepit for “Scarlet Meadow, Scarlet Brook” and eventually also a wall of death in order to honour “Deathride” (off 2011’s “For Wolves and Vultures”) being played for the first time in five or six years. Indeed, most of the setlist may be dominated by material from “Hydra” and “Helhorse”, but as the airing of this classic song goes to show, the band has not forgotten those fans who have stuck with them since the beginning, either. But even so, for me the set reaches its pinnacle with the final pairing of “Under a Bad Moon” and “War Drums” off the brand new record, both of which delve into the stoner-doom influences at the heart of this band’s method and provide some of the most emotive and grandiose moments in their entire repertoire thus far. To my surprise, these are not followed by any sort of encore — only a plea for us to join Helhorse for an afterparty at Escobar — and as such one of the few criticisms I can muster about this return to force is that it ends in a very abrupt, unceremonious manner that laves most people looking perplexed. I won’t let that spoil my judgment of an overall fantastic evening, however — one which has me looking forward to where this new chapter in the Helhorse story will take them.

8

Setlist:

  • 01. Overboard
  • 02. Avalanche
  • 03. Hell Hath No Fury
  • 04. Outcome: Ruin
  • 05. Death Comes to the Sleeping
  • 06. Fortune Favours the Bold
  • 07. Carry Your Own
  • 08. Hell of a Ride
  • 09. Scarlet Meadow, Scarlet Brook
  • 10. Deathride
  • 11. Hydra
  • 12. Fuck Art, Let’s Kill
  • 13. Under a Bad Moon
  • 14. War Drums

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